Monday, April 12, 2010

Subarashiki Hibi ~Furenzoku Sonzai~

I'm a little bothered by the idea of writing this review. The original idea of this site was to talk about eroge that has never really been in the limelight. Subarashiki Hibi does not seem to fit into that category by anyone's standards. On the other hand, as there has not been much reviewing activity on the English side about this game, it feels a bit off to just let it slip into obscurity in that fashion.

It is difficult to review a game like this. There is a lot to say about it, certainly, but the trick is finding the balance between saying too little and saying too much, especially considering that a portion of the enjoyment derived from reading this title is owed to the mystery surrounding the story. For this reason I do not want to spoil the game for others who may read it, even if they have to wait five or ten years.

On the other hand, I know that when a title I have been looking forward to comes out I completely avoid all media surrounding it just to avoid the slightest chance of tarnishing my experience of the game - because that's one of the things I love about a new eroge - the sheer process of discovery, because it almost feels as if the story could turn out to be anything. I assume that most people like me aren't even reading this review if they haven't yet played the game, so I will freely introduce characters and outline chapters. So, here we go!

"The subject does not belong to the world: rather, it is a limit of the world. "
- Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein

Subarashiki Hibi is a story told in six chapters. The chapters are of varying lengths and structure, but for the most part, they cover the month of July 2012 from a number of different perspectives.

It is not a fully-voiced title, despite the above-average voice count - only the female characters and one male character are voiced.

Subarashiki Hibi means "Wonderful Everyday" and refers as much to a peaceful eternity as it does to the transient, ephemeral nature of mortality.

The story begins in chapter #1, 'Down the Rabbit-Hole" on July 12, 2012. The protagonist is Minakami Yuki and the heroines are Wakatsuki Tsukasa and Wakatsuki Kagami (if those names seem familiar to you, it's not an accident. If they don't, don't think too much about it). Yuki lives an eternally peaceful, everyday life with Tsukasa and Kagami; her childhood friends; when she meets a girl named Takashima Zakuro throwing stuffed toys off of a rooftop. Zakuro, a mysterious girl who tells Yuki a story about God and aerodynamics, all the while apologising about involving her in a tragic story.

"and if you're not good directly," she added, "I'll put you through into Looking-glass House. How would you like that?"

"Now, if you'll only attend, Kitty, and not talk so much, I'll tell you all my ideas about Looking-glass House."

In a startling turn of events never before seen in eroge, all of a sudden both Zakuro and the Wakatsuki sisters are living in Yuki's apartment. It's a romantic love comedy with a yuri bent (and if you played Subarashiki Hibi for that you'd probably better stop around here). Later on, Yuki meets another girl, Otonashi Ayana, on the rooftop of one of the school buildings. Ayana seems to speak in riddles and has the annoying tendency to imply that she knows a lot more about what's going on than you do.

Before long Yuki has to make a decision that, like many of the decision points in Subarashiki Hibi, brings about an outcome that can only be understood much later in the narrative; to keep living a wonderful everyday with the Wakatsuki sisters or to follow Zakuro's unusual words and stories and take a trip down the rabbit hole to see where it all leads.

The inevitable decision is obvious.
This is where the story begins.

"The sense of the world must lie outside the world. In the world everything is as it is, and everything happens as it does happen: in it no value exists - and if it did exist, it would have no value."
- Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein
The story begins in chapter #1, 'Down the Rabbit-Hole" on July 12, 2012. The protagonist; Minakami Yuki; lives a peaceful everyday life with Tsukasa and Kagami; her childhood friends; when one day she meets a mysterious girl, Takashima Zakuro (a girl in another class in Yuki's school, who seems to have met Yuki before but Yuki does not remember this).

The next day, she learns that Takashima Zakuro has killed herself. Rumours in school are abuzz about predictions of the end of the world in 2012 - one of which is a Web site called the "Web Bot Project", a network of crawlers designed to harness the 'collective unconsciousness' to make predictions.

A boy in Yuki's class named Mamiya Takuji stands up and makes an apocalyptic prediction, stating that the world will end on the 20th, that Zakuro's death was the first sign. He speaks of an event he dubs "the Last Sky", where the world will be destroyed and reborn.

The clock is ticking and more people die as the prophesied date draws closer and closer while Yuki attempts to get to the bottom of the identity of Mamiya Takuji, the Web Bot Project and the Last Sky.

The proceeding chapters then present the story from the perspectives of other characters involved in the event, including Mamiya Takuji and Takashima Zakuro. Subarashiki Hibi manages to avoid the traditional problems that plague games that tell the same story many times through extremely clever use of narrative, managing to keep the story interesting throughout.

A number of the chapters (at least the first three) have two sides to them, typically featuring both a 'canon' side and an 'if' side. These are either encountered sequentially or through decision points. While not necessarily (although sometimes) useful to the overall plot, they do help to introduce more information about other characters and they do not contradict the rest of the story.

Subarashiki Hibi has a number of endings that branch off at various points as well as three main endings that branch off after the final chapter and are unlocked sequentially. While the endings are quite different they do not contradict each other and the story will be known to the reader after completing them.

The story will surprise you.. You will not see it coming. I don't care how perceptive you are or if you're an avid scholar of Wittgenstein and Carroll. The only way you'll pick it up sufficiently ahead of time is if you were spoiled.

"Though a state of affairs that would contravene the laws of physics can be represented by us spatially, one that would contravene the laws of geometry cannot."
- Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein
There is a former work that was the initial cause for a lot of the buzz surrounding Subarashiki Hibi, a somewhat obscure game by the name of Tsui no Sora. Old and severely dated, production-wise the game did not age well by any stretch of the imagination. It did, however, sport a unique story that resulted in the game gaining a bit of a cult following. When the characters in Subarashiki Hibi were announced people noticed that three of them (Yuki, Kagami and Tsukasa) had surnames identical to those of characters in Tsui no Sora (Yukito and Kotomi) while a further three characters appeared to have been directly airlifted from Tsui no Sora into Subarashiki Hibi (Zakuro, Ayana and Takuji). There was much speculation as to whether Subarashiki Hibi was a sequel or prequel to Tsui no Sora, all of which were denied by SCA-自, the creator of both stories. The fact remains that there is clearly a link between them, so do you need to play Tsui no Sora before you play Subarashiki Hibi?

Well, no, no you don't. I do, however, recommend it. If you can manage to scratch up Tsui no Sora you'll enjoy contrasting between the two titles. If you can't, don't beat yourself up about it too much, just play Subarashiki Hibi as is and you'll enjoy it just fine. What Subarashiki Hibi is is another story related to Tsui no Sora that conveniently also includes a rewritten version of Tsui no Sora cleanly and imperceptibly embedded into the story. This was, in fact, an excellent solution because it allows anyone to understand Subarashiki Hibi entirely while not making people who have read Tsui no Sora reread the same story again.

Subarashiki Hibi is a reasonably lengthy game, roughly 30 hours or so (the majority of which takes place in the first three chapters) but at the main time manages to stay interesting throughout. In terms of content it probably goes without saying that Subarashiki Hibi is an eroge to read for the story first and foremost.

A couple of prerelease reviews of Subarashiki Hibi went "So like there are six stories and they won’t make a whole lot of sense at first but I’M SURE it will once you read ALL of them. There is YURI in it. The pictures are pretty and the male characters look too shota. H20 did not rock my soul and I doubt this will. But it’s probable there will be a following because of the YURI and a Fujibayashi twins possible 3P twincest." and "I don't really like the art. Foreheads are too big. Yuri doesn't tempt me. Pass." Something I feel it is important to bring up is that the content (in this case, yuri) that seems to be a concern is not, in fact, consequential to the story. Out of the six chapters, two half-chapters contain yuri content. The rest do not.

I do, however, feel the need to make a note concerning content, particularly from the view that not everyone likes everything in eroge. In TakaJun's reviews, he likes to include at the end stuff like "Recommended for: people who like X and Y. Not recommended for: people who don't like Z" where X, Y and Z refers to the content of the game. While I generally like this approach as it lets people find games that contain things they like and avoid things they don't like, I'm extremely hesitant to include anything like that here. Simply put, I recommend Subarashiki Hibi to everyone. That includes Micchi and Reikon too. The fact is that it contains stuff that people will not like. In fact, I doubt there are many people who would not be 'turned off' by something in Subarashiki Hibi. It contains a decent number of rather horrifying scenes, a few of which you rarely see in eroge and may come as a shock to some. The point is, even if you don't like any of this stuff, I still recommend that you play Subarashiki Hibi because it is worth it. In fact, it's an essential part of an experience. One particularly horrifying scene in Chapter 2 is revealed to have been completely necessary - and not at all what you thought it would be - in a later chapter. A number of the scenes in Chapter 3 were essential for showing how Zakuro's state of mind changed over time. So keep with it; you'll find Subarashiki Hibi to be a rewarding experience and who knows, you may be tougher than you think.

"Even if all that we wish for were to happen, still this would only be a favour granted by fate, so to speak: for there is no logical connexion between the will and the world, which would guarantee it, and the supposed physical connexion itself is surely not something that we could will."
- Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein
Subarashiki Hibi is a denpa game. It's hard to actually define a denpa game, except by naming other denpa games and leaving the interpretation up to the player. But I'm no wimp so I'll give it a shot.

Denpa games are a subgenre of horror eroge, popularised by the 1996 Leaf game 'Shizuku' which also lent the genre its name. The typical model is a horror story where the catalyst for the events that occur are based on familiar people acting in unfamiliar, yet seemingly orchestrated ways. Stories where the world seems to have gone mad; and the protagonist is not necessarily an exception. The name comes from the idea that electromagnetic waves (denpa) is causing people to act strangely (although it is rarely anything that mundane).

While most denpa games thrive on confusion and generally seek to leave things unexplained, Subarashiki Hibi approaches the concept from a phenomenology perspective and in this regard makes everything in hindsight seem a lot less chaotic than it would initially seem. Whether this means it is less 'pure' a denpa game compared to Tsui no Sora, which explained little (but left the reader to his/her own conclusions) is something I'm not sure about but ultimately am not that concerned by. Subarashiki Hibi is in many ways its own kind of game and does not need to be forced into an inappropriate genre just because people feel the need need to categorise things.

There you have it. Subarashiki Hibi. A most interesting game.

Now, when I review eroge, I like to come up with a nice, simple number (generally expressed as a percentage) to stick beside it. This isn't a number on an absolute scale (i.e. 100% = as good as possible, 0% = as bad as possible) because I think it is always possible to do better and always possible to do worse. Rather, it's just a number that pops into my head after I think about it enough and typically functions as a measure of how appealing I see the game as being. I like to create scores like this to allow me to concisely compare eroge with each other and to express how I feel about a game in a fashion somewhat close to being quantitative. That said, while I'm not going to give a game a score less than 0% or greater than 100%, I fear the scenario where I may be tempted to do so, which is why I had G-Senjou no Maou, which I've proclaimed pretty vocally as being a favourite eroge of mine, on 96% or so (which puts it far too close to a lot of titles), just in case something better did come out (because I could certainly imagine a better eroge, including the upcoming Taiyou no Ko, which could very well be a 97% or a 98%).

The fact that my very top VNs were of a particular kind always made me frame the idea of a 'perfect eroge' in the same sort of light, where I would imagine an extremely linear story told in a rather Saihate no Ima-esque way with just one winnable heroine that was the epitome of both badassery and moe, and when that game came out I would award it the highest of honors. A game so different to my ideal getting the same accolade is something I never even considered. When I said Subarashiki Hibi could be the best eroge when I posted my subtitling of the opening video, I was actually sort of joking, or at the very least, using a decent amount of hyperbole.

Subarashiki Hibi defied my expectations, and I hope you try it and find it defies yours.

Overall Score: 100%

Subarashiki Hibi official webpage
Subarashiki Hibi @ getchu
Subarashiki Hibi OP video
Tsui no Sora official webpage

(at the time of writing Subarashiki Hibi was one of the highest scoring eroge on rating site EroGameScape, surpassing well-known titles like Muv-Luv Alternative, Baldr Force and Sengoku Rance. As a bit of a niche title it is hard to determine how long it will remain there for) 

 "The world is independent of my will."
- Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein


  1. Getting a rating of 100% makes me very interested now. A question now.

    Regarding both Subarashiki Hibi and G sengyou no Maou, do they both have some overarching moral or philosophy, something like a message that the whole of the story illustrates? Say for example the many ideas thrown around in Fate/stay, or Soukou Akki Muramasa.

    Or would you say the merit for the two are in the story/storytelling, and the weaving together of everything, plot devices etc. eg. Kitto, sumiwataru.. or Eden*.

  2. Subarashiki Hibi has both at the '100%' level, I feel.

    G-Senjyou no Maou--probably more the latter, it's not like Sharin no Kuni. I liked it more as a thriller than for its deep ideas.

    1. Hey, Asceai, so do the three main endings that branch off after the final chapter make sense somewhat? What happens in these three endings? Are they ambiguous? What happens to the main characters (Yuki, Tsukasa, and Kagami) in the three main endings?

  3. 100% huh..sure piqued my interest

  4. Heh, the review that got me into this game that I have yet to play... orz

  5. Going by your review it seems that this is an excellent game. The fact that you liked G-Senjou no Maou lends further credibility to your standards. In fact, the very reason why I picked up this VN was because the same seiyuu for Haru from gsenjou is Yuki in this one. I shall see if this game exceeds my expectations. :D

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  20. The game "Subarashiki Hibi" has not been seen into another's category by anyone's standard.

  21. Subarashiki Hibi very nice review
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